The Story of Muhammad Din by Rudyard Kipling
In The Story of Muhammad Din by Rudyard Kipling we have the theme of mortality, generosity, authority, conformity, freedom and independence. Taken from his Plain Tales from the Hills collection the story is narrated in the first person by an unnamed man and after reading the story the reader realises that Kipling may be exploring the theme of mortality. Muhammad dies at the end of the story and his cause of death is assumed to be a fever. However it is noticeable that the English doctor who is caring for Muhammad does not really have any great concern for Muhammad’s well-being. It is possible that symbolically Kipling is suggesting that just as the doctor does not care for Muhammad. Those who colonized India likewise do not care for those who were there before (the Indians themselves). Muhammad was also a simple boy who tried to create his own little world in the narrator’s garden. This too might be symbolic as Kipling could be suggesting or highlighting the struggle for independence that many Indian’s went through. There is also no doubting that the narrator is a generous host to Muhammad. Allowing him the run of his garden and other rooms in his house.
This may be significant as the narrator might be unlike other colonizers (like the English doctor) who have nothing but bad remarks to make against those who are native to India. If anything the colonizer sees himself as the one in authority and not one to be taken lightly. The rule of the law rests with them and they would have received favourable treatment when it came to conflicts with Indians. A colonizer’s word held more weight than an Indians. Which some critics might consider to be unfair. Muhammad himself is treated well by the narrator however his father scolds him on several occasions which might be important as by scolding Muhammad, Imam is trying to break his son. To make him conform to his will. Though some readers might suggest that Imam fears losing his job due to his son’s nature. However the narrator never really seems to be annoyed with Muhammad. Allowing him all the freedom that he wants. Unfortunately for Muhammad he never gets to reap the rewards of this freedom. Which may be the point that Kipling is attempting to make he may be suggesting that Muhammad symbolically represents the plight of those who want or have fought for independence.
Just as Muhammad has died so too do any chances of freedom or independence for the Indian people. However there time does eventually come some years later. If anything Kipling could be suggesting that just as Muhammad is in the infancy of life or a child. So too is the Indian freedom movement. It will stumble as Muhammad has. Though in time go on to prosper and succeed in its goal. There is also a sense that the narrator pities Imam when he sees him carrying Muhammad. Gone is the young active child who liked to play and all that is left is Muhammad’s limp body covered in cloth. It is also noticeable that the narrator is lost for words as to how to express his condolences with Imam. Muhammad went from a child who was well to dying in the space of a few days. The reader left suspecting that should Muhammad have been English. He would have received better care. Considering that the doctor appears to be begrudgingly looking after Muhammad and is skeptical about any form of gratitude from Muhammad or his father.
In reality Muhammad’s death is not only a tragedy but it highlights how Indians were treated by the English colonizer. With the exception of the narrator Muhammad has been let down. Firstly by his father who scolds him and forces him to submit. Mirroring the control that England imposed on India and secondly by the doctor. It is as though life was inevitably going to be short for Muhammad as he never had the opportunity to be as totally free (like India itself) as he would have liked to be. His father’s role was submissive to the narrator and as such he expected Muhammad to be submissive to not only the narrator but to him too. The fact that the ending is so dark is also interesting as again it mirrors how some in India may have felt about their freedom and independence. Though as history has shown the time would eventually arrive in whereby India achieved independence from England. Unfortunately for Muhammad he would never see that day. However he was content with his own two yards in the narrator’s garden. For Muhammad that was all that he need to be free and happy.